For as long as crypto believers have been using NFTs (non-fungible tokens) as profile pictures on Twitter, there’s been skepticism about the durability of “ownership” over these digital assets.
Sure, you might “own” that cartoon monkey in your profile picture, in the sense that the token is affixed to your Ethereum address on an immutable, append-only ledger – but what’s stopping someone from just right-clicking the image and setting it as his or her profile picture, too?
Link your Ethereum wallet to your Twitter account, and you will be presented with a list of NFTs you own (verification is available only for Ethereum-based NFTs, at the moment, though a representative for the company clarified that this is only the “first iteration” of a feature that may go on to support other blockchains).
Choose an NFT, and your profile picture – typically enclosed within a circle – will get a nifty new hexagonal border. If a pesky right-clicker tries to use your NFT as their profile picture without first buying the token, they will still be able to use the image, but they will be stuck with the classic circle frame.
Of course, a truly committed right-clicker might simply re-upload that same image to an NFT platform, mint a visually identical NFT and use that as their profile picture instead, complete with a hexagonal frame signifying ownership on the blockchain. No word yet on whether Twitter will offer protections against that sort of thievery, which has grown rampant as the market for NFTs has exploded over the past year.
And because Twitter fetches users’ NFTs with application programming interfaces (APIs) from the online marketplace OpenSea, it’s effectively built a third party into its verification process, as opposed to just interacting directly with the blockchain. If OpenSea goes down, Twitter may have trouble loading those images. (These particular APIs were recently criticized at length in an essay by the cryptographer Moxie Marlinspike.)
Read more: NFT Forgeries Aren’t Going Away
Twitter’s NFT verification process is both a bid to keep crypto enthusiasts on the platform and an explicit rejection of former CEO Jack Dorsey’s “Bitcoin-only” philosophy.
Though Dorsey is one of the most prominent critics of what’s known as Web 3 – a new iteration of the internet, running on blockchains as opposed to cloud computing infrastructure and private servers – he’s a big fan of Bitcoin, which he’s said could “bring about world peace.”
NFTs and Bitcoin don’t tend to mix, at least not yet. Most of the action in the NFT sector has happened in and around the Ethereum blockchain.
For now, NFT verification is available only for users with Twitter Blue, the company’s $2.99-a-month subscription service, which offers a streamlined user experience and an “undo” button, among other mostly cosmetic features.
For NFT fans, it may be a price worth paying; that’s like, what – 0.001 ETH?
UPDATE (Jan. 20, 19:39 UTC): Adds OpenSea API information.